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June 8/12 13:45 pm - World Cup Fort William Preview

Posted by Editoress on 06/8/12

Fort William, Scotland, is one of the modern classics for the Gravity series of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup, which returns there for round three this weekend.  Held in the Highlands, with riders charging down Aonach Mor, the ninth highest mountain in the United Kingdom, this race is one of the longest and hardest of the season.


Track walk day at the 2012 Ft William World Cup in Scotland

The 2.8 kilometre run starts above the tree line, descending over 550 metres.  Riders don't have much chance to enjoy the panoramic views of Ben Nevis, the sea lochs of Loch Linnhe and Loch Eil and the islands of the Inner Hebrides, as they navigate switchbacks and rock gardens at the top of the course before the long pedaling middle section.  The lower portion of the course has received some major upgrades for 2012, with four large jumps - the biggest on the World Cup circuit.  The very dry conditions have made the course extremely fast and loose, so riders will have to strike a balance between aggressive, high speed action and maintaining control on the gravel.


Lower portion of the course has received some major upgrades

Round two saw world champion Emmeline Ragot (MS Mondraker) take the lead in the women's overall standings, after finishing third.  However, Rachel Atherton (GT Factory), the winner of round two by a large margin, should be  considered the favourite for Fort William - she finished second to fellow Brit Tracy Moseley last year on this course.  Interestingly, Moseley is racing her only Downhill of the year here, after racing the World Cup Eliminator series and some cross-country events this season.  Ragot was a distant seventh in Fort William last year.

Others to watch will include round one winner Tracey Hannah (Hutchinson United Ride) and Myriam Nicole (Commencal/Riding Addiction), who finished second to Atherton last week.  Hannah struggled last week on the tight, technical course, but Fort William is similar to Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, where she took the season opener.  Missing from the start line will be Manon Carpenter (Madison Saracen), who crashed and was injured in training at round two last week.

Canada has two riders on the women's start list:  Miranda Miller and Vaea Verbeeck.  Miller finished 12th last week, the top North American, and will be hoping to crack the top-10 this week.


Greg Minnaar will start with the #2 plate

In the men's series, the standings couldn't be closer:  Aaron Gwin (Trek World Racing) and Greg Minnaar (Santa Cruz Syndicate) are tied for the lead, each with a win and a second apiece.  Gwin took over the leader's jersey from Minnaar last weekend by virtue of the more recent win, but Minnaar won at Fort William last year, while Gwin could only manage fifth.  Others to watch include Brits Gee Atherton (GT Factory) and world champion Danny Hart (Giant Factory), because both will be looking for a win before their home crowd.

Also looking for a strong ride will be Australia's Sam Hill (Monster Energy-Specialized), who was seventh last week, after struggling with injury for much of the past two seasons.  Hill won the world title in Fort William in 2007, and has never finished outside of the top-10 here.  Missing from the start line will be Troy Brosnan (Monster Energy-Specialized) and Cedric Gracia (CG Racing Brigade), both out with injuries.

Canada's Steve Smith (Devinci Global Racing) finished tenth last week, despite riding with a dislocated finger, and is currently fifth in the overall standings.  He was tenth last year at Fort William, and will need to do better if he wants to hold onto his overall series ranking.

Other Canadian men on the qualifying start list are:  Matt Beer (a strong 27th last week), Kyle Sangers (43rd in Val di Sole), Luke Stevens and Remi Gauvin.

More photos by Colin Meagher


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